In class today the word 'friendliness' was split up into three morphemes rather than my prefered two.

I don't understand why 'li' has claim to be a morpheme rather than 'liness', which seems to be very productive.

  • 5
    The -li in friendliness is the -ly of friendly. It's just a different spelling. And that's what it means: [[friend + -li] + -ness] -- the property of being friendly. Jun 27, 2018 at 19:22

1 Answer 1


ly is a morpheme that can be appended to most nouns to mean "like", so saintly means "like a saint". This turns the noun into an adjective.

ness is another morpheme that can be appended to an adjective, to create a noun describing that abstract property, e.g. "dark" => "darkness". When the adjective ends with y, it's usually changed to i, e.g. happiness (in general, we don't use the vowel form of "y" in the middle of words, and replace it with "i").

friendliness appends each of these morphemes separately: "friend" (noun) => "friendly" (adjective) => "friendliness" (abstract property noun)

It's common to use liness together, but that doesn't make it a single morpheme; the meaning of each morpheme doesn't change when they're combined this way.

  • Good, clear answer (not easy to do!) Jun 27, 2018 at 21:36
  • 2
    Just to test my understanding: 'li' is an allomorph of 'ly' then? That's what tripped me...
    – Prince
    Jun 28, 2018 at 4:44
  • Yes. We don't normally have the vowel form of "y" in the middle of words, so it becomes "i".
    – Barmar
    Jun 28, 2018 at 19:05

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